Leaders vs. Managers: Which Are More Valuable?


Leaders vs. Managers: Which Are More Valuable? | Ircel Harrison, Leadership

Both leaders and managers are valuable, but only if they understand their respective roles and both accept the responsibilities that go with those roles, Harrison says.
Seth Godin does good work. Not only does he provide alternatives to old ways of doing things, he reminds us not to neglect proven concepts. 

In a recent blog post, Godin wrote about the differences between managers and leaders. He said:

"Managers work to get their employees to do what they did yesterday, but a little faster and a little cheaper. Leaders, on the other hand, know where they'd like to go, but understand that they can't get there without their tribe, without giving those they lead the tools to make something happen. Managers want authority. Leaders take responsibility."

Godin goes on to point out that we need both managers and leaders, but he shows his bias when he says, "It helps to remember that leaders are scarce and thus more valuable."

Although I understand his sentiment, I have to disagree. 

I would say that both are valuable, but only if they understand their respective roles and both accept the responsibilities that go with those roles. 

Certainly we need visionary leaders who will move us to the next level, but leaders are only leaders if they have followers.

These followers must be encouraged, nurtured and empowered. Not only must they be given the tools they need to do the work, but they must also have the freedom to use them. 

We have many examples in the Bible of leaders who prospered for a while but then lost their "edge" because they forgot what made them leaders. 

David was blessed by God and energized the people of Israel, but his hubris led to poor moral choices that undermined his leadership. 

Managers have the gifts to make things run smoothly. They know how to use resources wisely and make sure everyone knows what they need to do. 

The Achilles heel of the manager can be the inability to adapt to changing conditions. Once the structure or organization is in place, they are not inclined to change it.

Managers are akin to the "stewards" we read about in Scripture. They had a great deal of responsibility and often ran large estates for their masters, but they had to remember their place and that their role in the economy was limited.

The bottom line is that we need both.

Many great leaders have fallen because they were not able to turn the vision into a workable system. Many competent managers have driven the organization into the ground because they had limited vision.

Leaders and managers need each other. Together they move organizations forward.

Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. This column appeared previously on his blog.

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